The financial media regularly plays down reports of consumer price inflation that are much higher than the official numbers. Even worse, analysts generally argue that more inflation is needed for the health of the US economy. Pippa Malmgren, author of a new book, Signals: The Breakdown of the Social Contract and the Rise of Geopolitics, has been studying price inflation that is cleverly hidden – she calls it “shrinkflation.”
Shrinkflation occurs when consumer products cost the same, but contain less. For instance, Malmgren points to Cadbury chocolate bars that were reduced in size in 2011, while the price remained the same. Nestle’s Shredded Wheat and Carlsberg beer are two other major products that are practicing shrinkflation. Haagen-Dazs shrunk its “pint” of ice cream by 20% in 2011. Here’s an entire list of shrinkflation products published by CNN Money three years ago. Peter Schiff has talked about this very phenomenon in his videos and podcasts for years.
The financial media will likely downplay this trend in favor of broader, “official” measures of inflation that show prices are well under control. However, they’d be missing one of Melmgren’s most important insights: “Shrinking the size of goods is exactly what happened in the 1970s just before inflation proper set in.” At a certain point, a company can’t just keep lopping squares off the chocolate bar – they’re going to have to raise the price.
Remember, if there’s one thing you want to be holding when inflation really hits hard, it’s physical gold and silver bullion.
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